The Julia Project is pleased to share news from Haiti as updates come in from the Haiti school in Vignier. Our financial support is designated to the purchase of school curriculum and supplies needed in the restoration process of this private educational project.
Here's an excerpt from the first email we received from Benite Juene, our projects founder/administrator, right after the earthquake struck:
"It was 4:53 when I was getting ready to attend a conference at 5 PM with a professor. Suddenly, I heard a great noise and a big shaking. I run to open the door to go outside. I stand in front of the door, and a voice told me not to open it and I went to hide under the desks in the room. And within seconds the heavy concrete ceiling fell down. Dust, breathing hard, thinking about my family, my wife, my little Daisie, I could hear the others crying already for help. It reminds me instantly about what had happened 2 years ago when a school collapsed in Port-au-Prince 2 years ago where children stayed there for 2, 3 days under the rubble. I thought that It was going to be the same happening to me.
"Instantly, I began to say that I am not going to die now. I found a crack of about 14 inches high between two concrete beams (concrete beam of the floor that I was on and the beam of the ceiling under which I was) and I scrolled myself out and jumped about 20 feet from the first floor. I am alive, but I am still under shock, traumatized when I still see myself laughing with the person behind me and in front of me a few seconds before the event. I am still wondering why I am still alive ? How could I be here still?"
We have email reports coming in from Haitians known to us in both St. Marc and Jacmel that speak of the devastation firsthand:
"I've never been so overwhelmed in my life. So much has collapsed. So many things are absolutely crushed. There's dead people all through the streets, some covered with sheets, and some not covered. Buildings that I would pass by every day, or even go to, are gone. Our biggest grocery store Caribbean market is completely gone. It's unbelievable. People were trapped inside. And I've never been to that store without knowing at least one person there. I'm sure someone was inside that I know.
"There's TONS of people in the streets. So many people crowding, it was hard to walk through the streets. There's also a lot of people just sitting in the middle of off- streets. Nowhere for them to go. Another tremor just hit. The ground definitely does not feel stable. We all are really starting feel overwhelmed by what's going on. Walking out in the streets was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life just because of everything I saw. The people aren't hungry yet, but once time goes on, looting could start up. Hopefully, all of the aid coming in will cancel that out. Thanks for all your prayers."
This is the strongest earthquake to hit the area since 1770. The capital city of over 2 million people, Port-au-Prince, is only 10km away from where the quake struck. It has been reported that the capital has been seriously damaged with the destruction of government buildings, schools, and hospitals.
While the government of Haiti recognizes the urgency of reopening schools to provide some form of structure as many people face the challenge of moving forward with their lives, their efforts have failed.
According to reports from both Haitian and United Nations education officials, over 3,000 schools have been affected by the Haiti earthquake and could remain closed for months or never reopen at all. The quake gutted the educational system of the capital itself, a very centralized area of the country.
Long before the earthquake, Haiti has suffered from a dysfunctional system, where only 2 percent of the gross domestic product is spent on education.
A very small percentage of schools was public, and the rest was too expensive for the poor to advantage. The public schools still required families to pay for uniforms, textbooks and supplies.
Temporary Canopied Classroom In Haiti
The children at the Haiti orphanage in Vignier that we are supporting, are fortunate to have strong leaders who recognize the urgent need to get the children back to school.
Their news is encouraging to all of us who have donated and who will continue to support their efforts. Benite Jeune, the Pastor and over seer of this large Haitian school, has seen that temporary canopies have been erected to be used as classrooms. Some students are taking classes inside the church itself.
For many other thousands of children who are not as fortunate, the news from Haiti is alarming and discouraging.
Instead of going to school, they work the city streets scavenging for supplies that they might be able to sell as they struggle to survive.
Many families have been forced to live in tent camps where the safety of the children is jeopardized. Health workers in these camps report rising numbers of young rape victims, some as young as 12 years of age. The entire structure of their lives has been affected.
Haitian Schoolchildren Happy To Receive New Books
We are helping change the lives of Haitian children. The school children are equipped with new books in their temporary classroom because of funds we sent.
Pastor Benite writes in his recent email:
"I just wanted to show you a little bit how we manage to have school. We built a couple canopies and we are in the process of building more for we still holding classes inside the church which I do not like. But, the Lord is faithful, He has begun and He will finish what He had started.
"Attached are pictures of the books bought for the students and more would be given to them. Thank you for your support and your endeavor to be a blessing to Haiti. Blessings, Benite"
We have extended further support to the work at R.I.S.E. Haiti International (formerly called Changing Lives Ministries Int).
Be sure to read about our Haiti Mission Trip to Pastor Jeune's project in October 2010 for more news from Haiti.
UNICEF's 2012 Report marks the two-year update after the Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2012, and brings us some good news from Haiti.
It is estimated that 1/2 million are still in tent cities, and some of them are being moved to upgraded plywood housing.
While one half of the debris has been removed, we are reminded that for many people who lived in dire poverty before the earthquake, the move to the camps was a better alternative.
Many schools have reopened, but only 1/2 of the eligible students are attending, where they receive their only meal of the day.